Posts Tagged ‘And One’

And One: Thunder Asking For Trouble?

  • It’s not all 14-game home win streaks and looking down at the masses from atop the Western Conference standings for OKC. The Thunder don’t take care of the ball anything like a championship team and have spent much of the season among the league leaders in turnovers. They are to the point where they are asking for trouble in the playoffs (where each possession becomes more valuable) and, in the most telling sign, coach Scott Brooks knows his team has a serious problem. “I’m very concerned,” he said, adding, “It’s a variety of things, and we have to get better. No question. We turn the ball over too many times.” Imagine how much better OKC would be if it didn’t have to spend so much time backpedaling in transition defense and the high-scoring offense had more opportunities.
  • The turnover rank of the last 10 champions: Mavericks (2011) tied for 12th, Lakers (2010) sixth, Lakers (2009) 11th, Celtics (2008) 27th, Spurs (2007) fourth, Heat (2006) 16th, Spurs (2005) eighth, Pistons (2004) 18th, Spurs (2003) tied for 23rd and the Lakers (2002) second. So there is slight precedence for Oklahoma City being able to overcome sloppy play, mostly Boston ’08 and San Antonio ’03. Not that Thunder GM Sam Presti needs to be told – he was a rising star in the Spurs’ front office at the time and a Concord, Mass., native.
  • I’m sticking with the belief Dwight Howard will not be traded before the deadline as the Magic play chicken against themselves. They are relying on Howard choosing money and central Florida over the best chance for a title elsewhere because there is no move to surround him with a team good enough to make Orlando close to the favorite in the East ahead of Miami or Chicago the next several years. Credit management for exhausting every avenue in recent years to upgrade the team, from aggressive deals to lavish spending, but when Ryan Anderson is the best trade bait to build a championship-level supporting cast, there’s nowhere to go. (more…)

And Onesanity

  • The basketball perspective? It’s a hot streak. A lot of guys have ridden the comet like this. Mostly All-Stars or even Hall of Famers, but we’re still talking seven games, five of which have been against opponents that today have losing records. This is not about basketball. Jeremy Lin has transcended sports.
  • It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Lin is humble and genuine and entered the league with the Warriors last season just wanting to be one of the guys, even if it was an unrealistric goal even then. He was a local product, an Asian-American in the Bay Area and the focus of such an immediate buzz, no matter how many wrongly try to portray February 2012 as some moment of discovery, that Golden State had to call a press conference to introduce an undrafted rookie who would need to improve just to crack the rotation. You don’t have to root for the Knicks to root for Lin.
  • Welcome to a world where a guy with a Harvard economics degree is considered an underdog.
  • Lin could retire tomorrow and have made more of a mark in a couple weeks — in New York, in NBA history — than most do in years. Talk about perspective.

And One: Hope vs. Reality

*Not so fast. Having the Pacific Northwest jewel back in the league would be great, but reports that plans for a Seattle arena are gaining momentum may not mean much in NBA terms. At least not any time in the foreseeable future if the next Hornets owner is committed to staying in New Orleans, as David Stern desires, and not any time at all if the Kings get a building in Sacramento, as is possible. It’s still Sacramento’s game to lose.

*Pirating another city is OK now, right? Having it done to you makes Clay Bennett and Stern terrible people, but turning around and doing it to another market would be cause for celebration? Got it. Seattle may have cover since this would be more Sacramento losing the team than it being stolen away, but no one should be naïve. Seattle, or any interested locale, would be on the same hunt under different circumstances as well.

*Kevin Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former All-Star point guard, was never naïve. A year ago, amid the rising possibility the Kings were bound for Anaheim, he privately put together a list of teams to steal and instal as tenant should his city overcome years of blundering to finalize a new arena. The Hornets, Hawks and Pistons (before being sold) were, he thought, vulnerable to be looted the same way Anaheim was making a vulture play. Now there is no need for a list, only a simple bottom line. Close an arena deal and the Kings stay. Don’t close an arena deal and there’s no NBA in town, for years and perhaps forever.

*Jazz radio man David Locke can try all he wants to turn Jeremy Lin into an ethnic issue, but comparing his journey with Ichiro is such a bad reach. The Mariners outfielder is from Japan, grew up in a different culture with different training methods and had a language barrier when he came to the United States. Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, was born in Southern California, grew up in Northern California and attended college in Boston. He went undrafted and got cut by the Warriors and Rockets as basketball decisions, not because he didn’t look the part. (Because an athlete with an Asian background clearly would never be embraced in Oakland/San Francisco or Houston.) Sometimes front-office calls, however wrong they seem in this moment of triumph for a class act like Lin, are just front-office calls.

*Never have the defensive talents of Kentucky shot blocker Anthony Davis, the leader to become the No. 1 pick in June, been better illuminated than through the quotes from opponents and Wildcats coach John Calipari in the profile this week by Chris Dortch. “What you have to do to get to the basket against that guy is almost impossible,” Louisville guard Chris Smith said. And: “I went down there one time, and he just told his guys, ‘Just bring him in here, I’m going to block everything,’ ” Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said. And: “The best shot blockers I have seen are the ones that let people release the ball and then go get it, and that’s what he does,” Calipari said. “Marcus Camby, when I had him (at UMass), that’s exactly what he did; he never blocked it in the guy’s hand, he just stayed down and waited for him to release it.” Great stuff.

*All indications are the Lakers will retire the No. 34 of Shaquille O’Neal next season. The brief delay, as opposed to doing it in 2011-12, is due to the rush of the schedule after the lockout, not any doubt it will happen. The tribute has been an automatic for years, no matter how many wrongly guessed the bad breakup in 2004 might cost Shaq a spot on the Staples Center wall.

*Gisele Bundchen says keep scrolling. I cannot write the story and read the story at the same time.

*If the Warriors looked around for big deals that included Monta Ellis before the season when they rated themselves a playoff team, imagine the internal conversations now that they’re 8-14 and coach Mark Jackson has stayed more than once with the reserves over Ellis and Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter of close games. Curry is more prized around the league, and Golden State reportedly was insistent on keeping him while dangling Ellis in Chris Paul scenarios with the Hornets. The more the losses add up, the more anything is possible.

*Kris Joseph of Syracuse and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure should have been included in the Tuesday story on the rise of draft prospects from Canada. Both are seniors and have solid chances to be picked. Also, the Canadian at Kentucky is Kyle Wiltjer. Greg Wiltjer is his father who played in the 1984 Olympics. My turnover.

*Don’t be surprised if the Clippers bid to re-sign Chauncey Billups in July even with questions likely to still be surrounding his comeback from a season-ending Achilles’ tear. The intangibles as a leader with championship experience are that meaningful, not to mention a friendship with Paul that pre-dates their arrivals in Los Angeles. As people in Denver and Detroit know best of all, and the Clips quickly learned themselves, Billups makes a valuable contribution apart from the basketball itself. It’s just a matter of agreeing on how much that presence is worth coming off a serious leg injury and turning 36 as training camp opens.

*What’s the big deal about Steve Nash at an All-Star level as he passes his 38th birthday? Great players are supposed to do that in their prime. If he’s still that good in 2024 as retirement approaches, then it will be noteworthy.

And One: Closing Time

  • Time to throw the switch, Magic. Keeping Dwight Howard to start the season in a last, probably desperate, attempt to win back his heart made sense, but this has gotten away from them. Four consecutive games of failing to break 85 points makes it so. Losing to the Hornets by 26 and the Pacers by 21 within three nights last week makes it so. Howard calling out teammates about their dedication when they know he doesn’t want to be there makes it so. Enough is enough.
  • Orlando had to try and there was no right or wrong way to handle this. The Jazz look more brilliant than ever for quickly getting away from Deron Williams when he made it clear he was not long for Utah and before the locker room could be infected with distraction. But the Lakers refused to concede defeat to Kobe Bryant, and never in the history of any man in any sport in any galaxy has a player been more absolute and more believable than Bryant blasting away, re-loading and blasting away again about how they can trade him to Pluto for all he cares. That seems to have turned out OK.
  • The fact that All-Star weekend is in Orlando in three weeks and that Howard was just voted starting center for the East should have no impact in the timing of a potential deal. All-Star is not a marketing opp for the Magic. It’s a much bigger deal for the local economy in that regard, not for the team. It will be strange and the focus of media klieg lights if he is representing another franchise there, but so what. The weekend is about sponsors and fans from around the country taking a lot of the space in Amway Center. Game day there will be the most un-Magic moment of the season, not some strained emotion if it is the return.
  • Not a huge deal to the Spurs that Davis Bertans, the No. 42 pick in 2011 acquired in a draft-night deal with the Pacers, has signed in Serbia through the end of 2014-15. Though San Antonio hopes he can be part of the bridge to the future and a lot of NBA teams rated Bertans good enough to be a first-round possibility last June, there were no plans by the four-time champions to bring him over anytime soon. That could always change with a buyout after next season or the one after that. For now, though, KK Partizan, the club that once had Vlade Divac and future Spur Zarko Paspalj, is known for good coaching and environment.
  • Chris Kaman back to the Clippers is an intriguing thought – the Hornets have put him on the block, L.A. has been searching hard for another big since the start of the season, his expiring contract wouldn’t disturb the Clippers long-term financial plans, and no transition time is required. But it’s a non-starter. New Orleans wants prospects and/or picks, and the Clips seem to mostly be out of those for some reason. And of course, the Clippers couldn’t get him back this season in a trade even if they wanted to because of CBA rules.
  • The first five picks for the Western Conference reserves are clear, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love locks, LaMarcus Aldridge just about in that category, and Marc Gasol and Steve Nash hard to dispute. Nash plays for an 8-13 team, which is a problem, except that he also leads the league in assists and is at 55 percent from the field and 40.4 percent behind the arc. The final two spots are the tough ones. It should be Paul Millsap and Tony Parker over Monta Ellis, Danilo Gallinari, Kyle Lowry and Dirk Nowitzki, who may get selected by coaches because the Mavericks are the defending champions and could be top three in the West at the time of the voting.
  • Watch records get ignored when East reserves are picked. The Celtics may have two representatives in what is supposed to be a gurgling season. D-Will will get some support from coaches despite the Nets losing ways, same with Detroit’s Greg Monroe to fill the ballot as backup center. The selections should go to Andre Igoudala, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Jennings over Williams, Monroe and Carmelo Anthony.
  • Recommended reading: Matt Calkins in The Columbian makes the journey of Blazers radio play-by-play man Brian Wheeler hard to read and hard to stop reading. Wheels has always been worth rooting for. Just never more than now…. Recommended reading for everyone except Jim O’Brien: Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star on the one-year anniversary of Frank Vogel as Pacers coach is the positive review Vogel deserves. Much of it, though, is at the expense of his predecessor. O’Brien gets scorched.
  • The great thing about the most memorable of the Blake Griffin dunks is that they all punish someone. No breakaways. No getting behind the defense in the halfcourt. Power plus agility, and so posterizing that the three best are referred to by the victim’s name: The Mozgov and The Gallinari last season, The Perkins on Monday. There are even changes to the English language: Kendrick Perkins got Mozgov’d.
  • “Watched blakes dunk over and over again. Almost makes me wonder if me and him even play the same sport,” Nowitzki tweeted Tuesday. “What an athlete”
  • Too many people have it wrong, though. The Perkins was awesome and, though eerily similar, better than The Mozgov because Griffin absorbed contact from a physical center and powered straight through to the rim. But The Gallinari was the best, athleticism (speed) plus agility (unheard of spin move for a 6-10, 250-pound power forward) plus strength (taking a bump without getting knocked off stride) plus skill (ball handling) plus concussive finish with a defender in the way. The full Blake effect.